Closure of Pakistan air space snarls flights across Asia

BANGKOK (AP) — A temporary closure of air space over Pakistan snarled air traffic Thursday, especially between Asia and Europe, though some airlines adjusted by rerouting their flights.

In Bangkok, an important and busy hub for transcontinental flights, thousands of travelers were stranded.

Bangkok airport officials said over 4,000 travelers were affected.

Those needing help were getting access to accommodations and alternative travel arrangements, they said, though some of those stranded complained they were getting no help at all.

The terminal was so crowded that the chief of Thailand’s immigration police, Surachate Hakparn, tweeted a warning to “Please spare your time for your trip!”

The disruptions marked an unhappy end to a month-long tropical holiday for a group of 25 Danish students unable to board a connecting flight in Bangkok.

“We are trying to get home but our flight was cancelled so we can’t get home and now we’ve been waiting here for 18 hours without food or water,” said Sara Bjerregaard Larsen, 21. “And we’ve been sleeping on the floor.”

Thai Airways says it had rerouted flights to Europe outside Pakistani air space. Malaysia Airlines also said in a travel advisory on its web site that it was avoiding air space over Pakistan and northern India “until further notice.”

The first available flight to London on Thai Airways, according to its booking website, was Thursday, March 7.

Pakistan aviation authorities said the country’s air space would reopen as of midnight Thursday (1900 GMT). The government closed it Wednesday after Pakistan said its military had shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot, escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

India also suspended flights though some of its northern airports on Wednesday. Those facilities were back to normal on Thursday, but flights both to the U.S. and Europe out of New Delhi were affected.

A United flight from Newark, New Jersey, to New Delhi was rerouted through London and later canceled, and Air Canada canceled flights from Toronto and Vancouver to the Indian capital.

Air China canceled its flight Thursday from Beijing to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. According to an employee of the airline’s publicity office in Beijing, the status of other flights would be decided later.

By SAKCHAI LALIT ,Associated Press